Zambians are wearing the emperor’s new clothes
By Kachepa Mutumbi
THESE traditional healers wouldn’t be in business if we weren’t chewing their prescribed guava leaves to help us find a man to marry or a job at the UN. A reality of city living is that there’ll always be chaps willing to consult a traditional healer to solve all manner of problems.

Ours is a society that refuses to acknowledge that its people are all wearing the Emperor’s silk tights and polka-dot boxer shorts.

In our desperation to feed our vanity, we’ve made the Emperor’s new clothes Zambia’s national attire.

Yet you can’t entirely blame traditional healers. The thirst for success at any cost in Zambia has had us cutting corners to ensure that we, too, are seen pushing trolleys at Manda Hill or Woodlands Shopping Centre. Heck, we even enjoy getting fashionably stuck in traffic at lunchtime while we drive out to Siavonga with our Bayliner boats in tow.

To witness the excess and hypocrisy of modern Zambian society is to be an undertaker on his first day in the job.

Just this week, a friend of mine mentioned how Zambia can never have a civil war because we kill each other every day anyway. Ours is the genocide of the poor being reminded that they are not rich. And even the poor like to torment the impoverished with a public roasting of beef in the township.

It is a common sight in the township to see the madam proudly cooking outside her house if she’s preparing beef. Those with kapenta (sardines) and two pin vegetables must attain refugee status in their own homes for them to survive the genocide-of-status raging outside.

And so to the lucrative business of giving false hope to aspirational Zambians by urging them to add cow dung to their body lotion in order to score a rich spouse. Okay, so I’m stretching it a bit about cow dung’s seduction prowess, but don’t all traditional healers find this a cheaper alternative to working hard like every other Zambian?

This city’s damsels are prone to extreme measures when all their friends are getting married while they bathe in the cold, lonely waters of spinsterhood. Urban blokes’ sensibilities are stretched to the limit as their friends swagger around in the best restaurants and cars that money can buy.

Among other gems, traditional healers claim they can cure impotence, gain you promotion at work, help you win back long-lost lovers and score big in the lottery. All the while they’re quoting some Fally Ipupa song they heard in the tavern last night and claiming it’s some dead ancestor giving their blessing for your new job at the Bank of Zambia.

For people that can help you win the lottery or marry a spouse from a wealthy family, the chaps sure could live in better conditions. Most traditional healers are living behind the thin curtains of their morals in townships dotted across the city.

Maybe they sell mashed chicken bones in the komboni because it is there that most Zambians would like to emerge from and improve their lives in the ‘suburbs. But as more affluent Zambians should know, life in the township isn’t what it used to be.

There’s now a strongly held belief that behind the walls of suburbia is where Zambians are really itching to keep up with appearances. In fact, it just might be that traditional healers’ clientele is drawn from once-affluent Zambians that would like to extend the good old days at whatever cost.

See, there’s an old tale about a vain Emperor who always loved to cut a dashing figure. The story is so enamoured of sartorial elegance was he that one day, two cunning young men decided to make a fool out of him … just like traditional healers do of Zambians.

I believe those you cannot trust with your secrets, you must deceive with your lies. The Emperor was told by the two men that they were in possession of the finest cloth known to man and that only the wise could see it. Being a vain politician, the clown agreed to have a bespoke suit made for him from material that even he could not see.

Eventually the Emperor elects to showcase his new outfit in public. His subjects, for fear of looking like they have holes where their brains should be, enthuse about their leader’s sartorial sophistication until an unimpressionable young boy points out that the chap is as naked as the way the Lord sees us through His digital camera.

The Emperor is truly an ancestor of modern-day Zambians and the bastard sits atop the family tree of this country’s citizens. With our misguided attempt to attain status, we’ve all tried on – at some point – a jacket or two from the Emperor’s salaula.

Courtesy of The Post online Sun 17 July 2011

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